Harlem Community Reacts to Teacher Strike

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

The Harlem teachers strike is still on and contract negotiations are on hold, because neither side can agree when it comes to teachers' salaries.
Teachers hired after 2004 joined the district in a deficit and signed contracts to earn 2% less yearly pay than those hired before them. Now, the district is in a surplus and newer teachers want the same yearly pay raises as their colleagues.
Superintendent Pat Deluca says the teachers should never have agreed upon their initial contract, if they weren't willing to stick with that pay scale. 23 News hit the streets to find out how the community is feeling.
"My son's starting high school and it would have been great as far as having that first day. On the other hand, I respect teachers so much and feel that it's extremely important that they get paid fairly," says one Harlem mother, Melinda Thompson.
Harlem Dad Gary Anderson adds, "The teachers do deserve the money that they make and they deserve more because they support our kids education. But I also want them in school so my kids can be in school. Working parents nowadays it's hard to find babysitters and make adjustments and arrangements for the kids when they're home when we planned on them being in school."
"I'm just really mad and it's just like I love school and there's so much fun things to do even though I get a lot of homework," says elementary student Madaleine Ankele.
"What teachers really do for kids it really helps them so I think they deserve the money for what they're doing," says another elementary student, Aubrey Noto.
Finally elementary kid Amanda Thompson says, "I want to go back to school because I can learn stuff and learn about new things."
James McCalum, a junior at Harlem High School, has another take: "First term we'll have to do a bunch of cramming because of all the school work we miss and no one likes homework."
His friend Sorley Kersch is worried about extracurriculars: "I'm in band right now and we need time to work on our music and the freshmen coming in, it's a completely different level highschool wise, so they're gonna be real behind."
"There will come a point where I'm probably more into let's get school started than I am standing here right now, you know it's fairly new," adds Melinda Thompson.
Elementary student Sydney Larue gets the last work: "Hurry up with the process, just get an agreement soon, because as you can see we all miss school."
Both sides say they're working as fast as they can. Another major issue is insurance. If the strike continues after August 31st, teachers will have to start paying their own insurance premiums, which union leaders call a scare tactic. Deluca says teachers have broken their contract, making all aspects of it, including insurance coverage, null and void.
If more negotiations can be set up this weekend, school could be back on for Monday. Harlem's first football game of the season, scheduled for Friday night, is off.


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